New law: Employers assess workplace implications of upcoming laws against domestic abuse, including at work

Employers are considering what changes they need to make to protect workers, while at work, in relationships with people whose behaviour amounts to domestic abuse under upcoming new laws in case it spills into the workplace

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The new law, when it comes entirely into force during 2022, will protect current and past spouses and civil partners, current or past engaged couples, couples in a current or past intimate personal relationship, couples who have (or have had) a parental relationship in relation to the same child, and relatives from domestic abuse.

The definition of ‘domestic abuse’ in this context, already in force, means physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; controlling or coercive behaviour; psychological, emotional, or other abuse; and economic abuse, and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.

Particularly, economic abuse is ‘behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on a person's ability to acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or obtain goods and services’.

These definitions could include actions that affect a target at work and/or be visible to the employer – for example, where the abuser interferes with the target’s work, training, or employment, or arranges for their pay to go into an account controlled by the abuser. Abusive behaviour could also include calling the target at work, or even turning up there, to harass or interrupt them.

Potential targets should ensure their employers are aware if this may happen and employers should be prepared for it.

Employers can refer to the report Workplace support for victims of domestic abuse: Report from review, published in January 2021, which helps employers anticipate and deal with such behaviour.

They can also refer to guidance from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD - the professional body for HR and people development) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, ‘Managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse. A guide for employers’ which provides practical ‘key recommendations’ to help employers manage and actively support such employees.

Operative date

  • Now


  • Employers should review their policies and staff training, to ensure relevant staff are equipped to identify and protect workers who may be the subject of domestic abuse while at work.

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